The Chicago Cubs and Javy Báez have had a will-they-won’t-they-Ross-and-Rachel kind of situation going on the last 18 months or so, with everyone on the outside knowing they need to marry up for the long-term, but the sides just not quite getting the timing right.
This spring will offer the next (last?) chance for a long-term extension for the Cubs and Báez, who is otherwise set to be a free agent after this, his age 28 season. The Cubs and Báez will have talks, and hopefully they can get something done.
Báez does not want to leave:
Javier Baez: "Obviously, I want to stay here." … "I don't want to play for another team." He said he's been talking possible extension in general terms w/ Cubs for past few springs, and he'd ready to re-open convos with Jed Hoyer this year.
— Maddie Lee (@maddie_m_lee) February 26, 2021
The spring is when the talks need to happen, by the way, because Báez doesn’t sound interested in letting it spill over into the regular season. A lot of players feel that way, understandably:
Baez says he will probably set a deadline for contract extension talks. Doesn't seem he likes the idea of it continuing into the regular season. "We'll see where we're at in the conversation, but obviously I want to stay here."
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) February 26, 2021
Although the Cubs now have a farm system loaded with shortstops, we’ve done that dance before – you cannot (1) have too many shortstops, or (2) worry about the impact of extending Javy Báez as it relates to 19-year-old prospects. You deal with that later. In the nearer-term, the Cubs have no obvious replacement for Báez in 2022 (as if you could replace El Mago … ), so it’s not as if there’s even a looming reason to worry about any of this. If Báez wants to stay, and if the right price can be found, then make it happen.
But about that price tag.
As we’ve discussed with the other walk-year guys, it’s a complicated time to work out an extension. Not only is Báez coming off of a brutal year at the plate, and not only did that brutal year take place during a weird, pandemic-shortened season (so how much does it even tell you?), but you’ve also got the CBA expiring in December. The financial landscape for the sport and nature of contracts could look completely different one year from today. So, based on that, and the possibilities of performance in 2021, the risks of an extension – for both sides – are unusually high.
There’s also the complicating factor of a loaded shortstop class in free agency coming, which could make you want to wait as a team … or could make Báez want to sign an extension … or could wind up changing the price tags rapidly if guys start signing. Right now, the best comp we have for Báez is the six-year, $120 million extension Xander Bogaerts signed a couple years ago, but even that is imperfect for a number of reasons. Ask me today, and that feels high for Báez. Ask me tomorrow, and it might feel low. The market is just so tough to peg.
But I still very much hope they try to get something done. Báez, in addition to having offensive upside and being one of the few best defensive shortstops in the game, is simply a joy to watch. Maybe the greatest joy in the entire sport right now. I want him to be a Cubs player for as long as he is out there doing El Mago things. This is all supposed to be entertainment, and I don’t know that I’ve seen a more entertaining Chicago Cub in my life than Javy Báez.